Henna 101

Monday, November 03, 2014

I'm often asked a lot of questions about my hair colour. I'm a natural redhead but I use henna to brighten up the shade. I've put together some info about Henna and how I use it.
Henna is a natural product and comes from a plant called Lawsonia inermis more commonly known as the henna tree. it has been used for cosmetic body art and as a hair dye for over 6000 years by many different cultures.
Although made mostly from leaves, henna normally comes in two forms either as a powder or in block form (like Henna from Lush). Powdered henna needs to be mixed with an acidic liquid, normally lemon juice, then left for 1 to 48 hours for the Lawsone molecules to be released. These are what make henna stain the skin or hair.
Block Henna doesn't have to be mixed with anything but needs to be melted into a paste using boiling water.

The natural colour of henna is a reddish brown however different natural ingredients such as indigo and coffee can be used to create black and brown shades. 
There are a lot of misconceptions about henna. Mostly stemmed from horror storied about holiday henna tattoos. "Black henna" and "natural henna" aren't natural at all. Black henna tattoos often contain a chemical called para-phenylenediamine (PPD). This can cause allergic reactions which can be very dangerous and can also cause sensitivity to other chemicals such as hair dye. Best to avoid these at all costs.

I use Lush Caca Rouge Henna. I've used several different forms over the years and prefer this as it comes pre-mixed and ready to go. Caca Rouge is a full-on red henna, Lush also have Marron (a chesnut brown/red) Brun (a rich, coffee) and Noir (black). Henna leaves my hair feeling supersoft and glossy. It fades gradually so you aren't left with awful roots too. I normally use a full block as I have long hair but if you have short or shoulder length you can use half. The first time I'd recommend using a full block.

When you buy Lush Henna it looks like a big block of mud. It has a pattern and the name stamped into the bar so double check its the right shade as they all look similar. It also smells a little funky and earthly. Lush have added several nice ingredients such as cocoa butter, lemon and rosemary to help with the scent but its still a little odd at first. Normal hair dyes work by penetrating the hair cuticles. Henna coats the hair a bit like varnish so doesn't cause damage and also covers greys. Lush Henna doesn't contain any weird chemicals so you can dye and bleach over it too.

There are several different ways of preparing the henna for your hair.(try a strand test with a little to check the shade) Firstly put on plastic gloves and put newspaper down where you will be using the henna. (This stuff is messy.)  I prefer to get a big bowl, break the henna up into pieces and pour boiling water over the top, just covering the henna. I leave it for a few minutes until it starts to melt and then grab my trusty hand blender and blend the henna into a smooth paste (adding more water if required). You can use a spoon to melt/mix but its much quicker/easier with the blender.

Separate your hair into sections and while the henna is still hot start applying to the hair. Start at the roots and work your way to the ends. Once you have finished pull all your hair up onto your head and then wrap your hair with clingfilm. (at this stage you will look a little bonkers and like an alien from Mars Attacks!) I like to also wrap my cling-filmed head with a towel too. This keeps the heat and moisture in and helps give a more vibrant colour.
Henna needs to be left in the hair at least 4 hours to develop. I normally leave it as long as possible and have even slept overnight with it in (wouldn't recommend this as it gets messy).

L- Before, R- After
Once your developing time is up its time to rinse. I find the best way is to stand in the shower as it takes a while to get it all out and will save your back bending over the bath. I like to rinse for a few minutes then shampoo and rinse again, then shampoo and condition as normal. Your hair might still feel a little gritty but it will all come out after you comb through.
My hair always feels amazing straight after using henna, I love the softness and how glossy it looks. I use henna around once every 3 months but sometimes apply in-between for an hour or so as a glossing treatment.

You can buy and find out more information about Lush Henna (£9.25)  by visiting a Lush store or the on Lush website.

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